Last week, Facebook decided out of thin air that everyone should use Facebook’s own @facebook.com email address BY DEFAULT unless you changed it beforehand (and of course, didn’t ask you to change it – in true Facebook style). Well it has gone a bit deeper with complaints emerging that entire contacts have been changed without their knowledge and emails not actually going through.
One user, Rachel Luxemburg from Adobe, noted on her blog that it silently updated her contact details on a co-worker’s phone and replaced her work email to her @facebook.com email. And obviously, she’s pissed.
“Today, a co-worker discovered that his contact info for me had been silently updated to overwrite my work email address with my Facebook email address. He discovered this only after sending work emails to the wrong address,” she wrote in a blog post.
“And even worse, the emails are not actually in my Facebook messages. I checked. They’ve vanished into the ether. For all I know, I could be missing a lot more emails from friends, colleagues, or family members, and never even know it.”
This morning my mother was complaining that many of the email addresses in her Droid Razr contacts had been replaced with Facebook ones. It would seem the Facebook app had been populating her address book with emails and contact photos, and decided to migrate all her Facebook-using contacts over to this convenient new system. That seems like a much greater controversy to me than Facebook hiding people’s email addresses.
Another on Slashdot:
But wait, how the hell did this happen? It is most likely due to how the Facebook apps work on mobile devices. They synchronise contact data – of course, if they make it public. It does have some usefulness – your friend may change their numbers and you would automatically get the latest information rather then relying on sending text messages (or putting Facebook Event pages and spam the heck out of you).
On the other hand, it overwrites anything that you stored on your phone. So if your phone had a person’s name – like mine – and had my email address for techgeek.com.au; that would have been automatically erased and given out a @facebook.com email address.
I leave you with this comment by Reddit user homoiconic:
A few folks ask, why is this a big deal?
This isn’t a big deal because Aunt Millie will look up your email address on your FB profile and start sending church social invitations to your FB inbox.
This is a big deal because everyone who has a mobile device or other software that synchronizes their address book with their FB contacts is in danger of blowing away the perfectly good email address they had for you and replacing it with your FB email address.
What specifically happens depends on how the sync software is written, of course. It may keep old ones it had, it may simply add the new one, it may change the default email address, or it may throw the old ones away.
I personally believe this is the purpose of the update: To silently worm FB email addresses out beyond FB through mobile apps that synchronize FB. And that is a big deal.
So lets get this clear – it’s not a privacy problem, it’s just a massive f**k-up on Facebook’s part.